New effort to bring bowl game to Charleston faces familiar obstacles: Confederate flag, NAACP, NCAA
A new effort to bring a college football bowl game to Charleston faces a familiar obstacle — the NCAA’s ban on “pre-determined sites” in South Carolina because of the Confederate battle flag still displayed on the State House grounds.
A game here?
Details for the proposed college football bowl game:
Name: Legends Bowl
Stadium: Johnson Hagood
TV: NBC Sports Network
First game: Dec. 20, 2014
Conferences: Sun Belt and Mid-American
Economic impact: $6 million (estimated)
Organizers of the proposed Legends Bowl, which would be played at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium beginning in December 2014, held a meeting of community leaders Friday in an effort to build momentum for the idea.
Thirteen years after a compromise to move the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse dome, the controversy and boycott of South Carolina continue.
The bowl would pair teams from the Sun Belt and Mid-American conferences, be televised on the NBC Sports Network and bring an annual economic impact of about $6 million to the Lowcountry, organizers said. The name of the bowl could be changed to reflect a South Carolina connection, they said.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Kenneth Canty, president of Freeland Construction and one of the business leaders at the meeting. “A rising tide lifts all ships. All business would be impacted positively by bringing a bowl to Charleston.”
But bowl organizers must figure out a way past the NCAA moratorium and the long-standing call for an economic boycott by the state NAACP, which has objected to past efforts to bring a bowl game to Charleston.
“No, the NAACP is not going to support (a bowl game) as long as the flag is flying in a sovereign position,” Dot Scott, president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, said Friday. “We would not give sanction to it. It’s unfortunate that can’t happen, because I think having a bowl game here would be wonderful.”
The issue stems from a compromise reached in 2000 to remove the battle flag from atop the Statehouse dome in Columbia to a monument on the grounds.
The NCAA ruled in 2001 that it would not award predetermined championship sites in “states where the Confederate battle flag continues to have a prominent presence.”
In 2004, the NCAA directed its Football Certification Subcommittee to “deny any requests for certification for bowl games in any state where a moratorium exists as a result of the state’s Confederate flag stance.”
The moratorium currently impacts only two states: South Carolina and Mississippi.
The moratorium derailed a 2004 effort to bring a proposed Palmetto Bowl to Charleston.
It also has cost the state the chance to host NCAA tournament basketball games; no South Carolina city has hosted an NCAA basketball regional since 2002. North Carolina cities such as Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro routinely host such games.
In 2009, the Atlantic Coast Conference thought it had the NAACP’s support to bring the ACC baseball tournament to Myrtle Beach for 2011, 2012 and 2013. When the NAACP objected, the ACC moved the tournaments to North Carolina.
In recent years, the moratorium has prevented South Carolina’s nationally ranked women’s basketball team, coached by Dawn Staley, from playing NCAA Tournament games at home.
However, there appears to be some holes in the NCAA moratorium. In 2009 it allowed the Division II Pioneer Bowl to be played at Benedict College in Columbia. It is billed as the “only NCAA-sanctioned bowl game involving teams from historically black colleges.”
State NAACP President Lonnie Randolph objected at the time, but the game was played anyway.
The NCAA also allows state teams, such as Clemson and South Carolina, to host regional and super-regional baseball tournaments, because those sites are not “pre-determined.” The College of Charleston has hosted an NCAA-approved basketball tournament every year since 2008.
State Rep. Samuel Rivers, R-Goose Creek, who called Friday’s meeting, is determined not to let this opportunity slip away.
“The main obstacle is the question of what is a “prominent presence” for the battle flag,” Rivers said. “I don’t believe it is in a prominent location, and I’d like to see the NCAA acknowledge the compromise and rule that the moratorium does not affect us because we have moved the flag from a sovereign place.
“The bowl game is not a civil rights issue, it’s an economic issue that will help everyone. The next step is to move forward with the bowl game and work on some of the things that the NAACP is concerned with.”
Local businessman Tommy McQueeney, a former member of The Citadel’s Board of Visitors, has been down this road before. He led the ill-fated 2004 attempt to bring a bowl game to Charleston.
“I think this one has a chance,” he said, “because I think this time it’s across the board. There are more people putting an emphasis on getting it done. Eight years ago, it felt like we were working just to sew the parties together. Now, it looks more broad-based.
“We just need to make sure everyone is at the table, and that the conversations are open, frank and positive.”